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Princess Academy by Shannon Hale is the first Newbery Award-winning princess book I've read since Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. To me, it felt like the book was trying a little too hard to become a modern classic, even though it obviously succeeded. It's not quite what you would expect from a princess book, as it is not a fairy tale adaptation and doesn't contain any familiar characters. For the first few chapters, it seems to take place in a completely non-magical world. I didn't enjoy the beginning of the book very much, but it grew on me as I went along. Though it is not one of my favorite princess books, I can understand how it won so many awards. If I had to compare it to something I've read in the past, it's most similar to Matilda by Roald Dahl.
Princess Academy tells the story of Miri, a simple mountain girl whose village gets selected by the king's priests for the prince to find his future bride. Per Danlandian tradition, all girls in the mountain territory who are of age must attend an academy to learn how to become proper princesses so they will be prepared when the prince makes his selection. Though this sounds like the perfect set-up for a modern-day reality TV show where girls are jealous and catty, that turns out not to be the case at all. Mount Eskel girls are hard workers who are fiercely loyal to their homeland and all who reside there. This works out in their favor when they learn that they must study under a strict headmistress named Olana who prides herself on disciplinary tactics such as beating girls on their wrists for speaking out of turn and locking them in closets for misbehaving. By banding together instead of competing with each other, Miri and her companions manage to overcome Olana's abuse.
The book is a deconstruction of the fairy tale narrative by breaking down stereotypes and modernizing them to apply to the real world. Most of the girls at the academy have little interest in winning the prince's heart because they don't know enough about him to want to marry him. Miri has a realistic perspective on the thought of being a princess. She thinks it's fun to fantasize about, but remains unsure whether or not it would truly bring her happiness. The requirements to become the Academy Princess, which is similar to a valedictorian, do not involve winning Prince Steffan's affections, but instead being the hardest worker in the school. Thanks to the academy, the mountain girls have an opportunity to learn reading, history, and arithmetic, an opportunity that they would not have been granted otherwise due to residing in such a small territory. Miri takes her studies very seriously in spite of her dislike of Olana's methods. She quickly transforms into an avid reader and uses her knowledge to try to improve the lives of her family and others who live on the mountain.
The fantasy aspect of the book comes into play gradually and is taken for granted by most of the residents on Mount Eskel. The quarry workers use a telepathy-like ability called "quarry speech" to hear each other over the loud noises they make during their labor. Until Miri discovers that it could be used outside of the quarry, no one on the mountain had thought of it as supernatural. While she continues to pursue her studies, Miri also strengthens her ability to use quarry speech by performing tests to determine how she can use it to the fullest potential. The skill requires her to make up songs in her mind. As a result, each chapter of the book begins with a song verse that serves as a metaphor for what happens in that chapter. The quarry speech adds a supernatural element to the story, but not quite enough to make it feel like a true fairy tale.
Princess Academy is a great novel for younger girls to understand the values of education, teamwork, and loyalty, but does not have much to offer to fairy tale fans in general, It did not feel like a traditional princess story as much as it did a modern classic that promotes contemporary values. While there is certainly nothing wrong with that, the book did not move me emotionally in the same way as the romance and adventure from other princess books I've read in the past did. I would recommend this book for young girls who want to read about a character they can relate to who is attending school. For fairy tale fans, it can be a hit or miss. If you enjoy this book, it is the first in a trilogy with two sequels.
Being a guy, I got an initial laugh of confusion when I told my friends I was reading a book called "Princess Academy." However, this book is for guys and girls of any age.
Miri is a girl living on Mount Eskel, a remote and poor territory of the kingdom where they mine linder from a quarry to make a meager living. She struggles with wanting to work at the quarry along with the other girls, but her dad won't let her. She feels like an outcast. This year, however, the chief delegate of the kingdom arrives and makes a surprise announcement: it has been foreseen that the next princess will come from Mount Eskel and so, in order to prepare, a princess academy will be formed in order to instruct the eligible girls and prepare them to meet the prince.
What we find in this book is an encouragement towards education, understanding, and sticking up for others. We find girls who start off in competition learning to get along. We find courage, creativity, and empathy. I'd say this book is primarily character driven with Miri at the center of it all. She really is an admirable character and she learns many things along the way.
There's a tiny bit of fantasy mixed in with the plot, but not so much as to get in anyone's way. The majority of the occurrences are events that could still happen to our children as they're growing up, or children elsewhere in the world who come from more impoverished backgrounds.
So are there some things are are probably geared more towards a girl audience? Perhaps, but other than the idea of a princess, most of this book is applicable to all who read it. We all have dreams that we would do anything to achieve and awakenings along the way. If a book is wholesome for children because it promotes the values we want in our children, then shouldn't we, the adults, also read it to instill those values in ourselves?
This is a really good book and, again, I recommend it to all, regardless of age or gender.
According to Scholastic this book is meant for grades 3-8, so it was a pretty easy read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy every second of it. Miri, the main character, is amazing. She is strong and clever and brave, but she is also insecure and loving. She is pretty much my ideal heroine. I love the way she interacts with the other girls in the academy. They have petty arguments and real issues, but they still manage to come together and help each other in their darkest hour. Despite the competitions and the drive to win, no one truly wished for the other girls to fail. They had very realistic, middle school drama, relationships.
There is a certain innocence about the book that just made me happy. It is hard to explain, but its just a feel good book. But not a sappy love story type feel good. Its got a good plot and a LOT of character development. There is a good mix of love, action, fantasy, drama, and resolution to make it a great read.
This is a great book for all ages. I would definitely recommend it to elementary and middle schoolers as well as teenagers and adults. This would make a great book to read with your child too! If you want to start a mommy and me book club with your child I would suggest starting with this book. Its that good!
I was surprised and pleased by _Princess Academy_. The title sounded familiar and perhaps a little hackneyed, but the story--and the characters--are refreshingly different.
Mount Eskel, where the heroine lives and the entire story takes place, is a surprising combination of real-world Scandanavia, the Brothers Grimm and Chinese fairy tales--a harmonious but imperfect place where no one knows how to read or write but women (like men) are valued for their strength as well as their goodness. We never really see the world beyond the mountain (perhaps, someday, a sequel--or another book set somewhere else in the kingdom?)--the entire story deals with the interactions of the village girls and the strangers who occasionally visit. I would have liked to see more about the other villagers (especially Miri's family; her interaction with her father is mostly limited to him calling her "his flower," but is important in the story), but the portrayal of a small group of girls and the dynamics of friendship and non-friendship between them is surprisingly realistic, without being too bitter or cynical.
This book is a good choice for girls who really like princess stories, but it's not set in a castle by the sea (or in a castle at all), and the girls are realistic characters with interesting lives. It is NOT a sword-and-dragon adventure novel (nor is it high fantasy), so don't be confused, but it's a well-written, enjoyable read with some definite moments of excitement. The more quietly romantic type of girl will enjoy this. A nice new twist on both the fairy-tale princess genre and the school story tradition.
Princess Academy is a make believe Story that takes place in Mount Eskel, in Danland. It takes place in the past. The people of Mount Eskel mine for linder, a fictitious type of decorative stone. Linder is used for building or sculpting.
The prince of Danland needs a princess from Mount Eskel. The princess academy was established so girls could learn to become princesses. The Mount Eskel teenage girls were forced against their will to go to the academy. The girls are being taught how to act like a princess and are being mistreated while they learn. In spite of being mistreated, the girls learned a lot and became very smart.
Miri is the main character in this book and is a 14 year old girl. Miri is a Mount Eskel girl and is very brave. She may be small but she is very smart. Miri is eager to learn school subjects and wants to improve the other Mount Eskel villagers knowledge. She will never give up no matter what.
The theme of the book is to never doubt a child, because children can do anything. When the girls were captured by the bandits, Miri told them to run. The girls did, but the bandits caught them all. From that point on, no one trusted Miri. In the end, Miri saved the girls and they realized they never should have doubted her.